Patricia Carter Cooper 1965
Committed to the concept of community in its broadest sense, the winner of this year’s Havergal Old Girls Life Achievement Award has spent more than 45 years advocating for equality and the rights of women and children. Pat Carter Cooper 1965’s focus is the empowerment of women in the workplace, in education and in the family. Her reach has been broad; her efforts have made a difference in Canada, the United States and South Asia.
Her career is nothing short of remarkable. Her impressive achievements include public- and private sector work as a public policy analyst, strategic planner, business executive, educator, civic leader and advocate for global social innovation. She serves on many boards Havergal graduate has embraced lifelong learning in service to humanity and has won numerous awards, including three ‘Woman of Distinction’ designations.
A Toronto girl, Pat entered Havergal in Grade 8. Her classmates remember her outgoing nature, boundless positive energy and sense of fun, fearless athletic prowess, empathy, compassion and sense of justice. A natural leader, she drew people to her.
She learned early to work hard and to persevere. Eager for the real world beyond the classroom, she grasped that the right skills would unlock the doors to her own interests. Determined and goal-oriented, she never became discouraged; if she couldn’t overcome an obstacle, she would find a way around it.
In her twenties, with a husband and young family, Pat moved ever westward, gathering qualifications. A life changing moment came during an early job as a journalist. She reported on a farmer’s wife who, in a divorce, lost custody of her seven children and also access to the farm on which she had worked her whole life. “I can’t just report on this,” Pat decided. “I have to change it.”
Her activism began with chairing a committee at the YWCA in Winnipeg and then Calgary. She soon became president of the YWCA and went on to serve on many boards and commissions in Calgary. She was the only woman on an 11-member panel to develop Calgary’s economic strategic plan into the 21st century. As vice-president of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, she supervised the Calgary and Winnipeg offices for eight years. Pat was a founding member of the Legal Education and Action Fund, which eventually won many cases in the Supreme Court, forcing provincial legislation to comply with the new Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
She moved to Denver in 1990 and, within months, she was meeting with Hillary Clinton regarding girls’ education and had joined numerous organizations to advance the status of women, including Pathfinders International (women’s reproductive health). She was hired to direct the financial turnaround of the Children’s Museum of Denver, earned two master’s degrees (public administration and global studies) and became a fellow at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University.
In 2010, she founded the Women’s Regional Network: Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, to bring women leaders of civil society together to address the common issues of corruption, extremism and militarization of aid. Without compensation, she supports, mediates and raises funds to help women achieve their goals for peace and justice.
Pat and Peter (her husband of 46 years) have raised three impressive children. She now helps with her five grandchildren. She is an expert skier and loves to take canoe trips, cycle and explore. She is quick to laugh but, being no stranger to personal tragedy, readily reaches out to comfort others.
At almost 70, Pat still tirelessly pursues causes. She exemplifies hard work and a commitment to lifelong learning in service to humanity. An exceptional role model for young girls today, she is a fine ambassador for Havergal.
Written by Margaret Payne Hammond 1965